Jean Froissart (c.13371410?). The Chronicles of Froissart. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Campaign of Crecy
Of the Great Assembly That the French King Made to Resist the King of England
THUS by the Englishmen was brent, exiled, robbed, wasted and pilled the good, plentiful country of Normandy. Then the French king sent for the lord John of Hainault, who came to him with a great number: also the king sent for other men of arms, dukes, earls, barons, knights and squires, and assembled together the greatest number of people that had been seen in France a hundred year before. He sent for men into so far countries, that it was long or they came together, wherefore the king of England did what him list in the mean season. The French king heard well what he did, and sware and said how they should never return again unfought withal, and that such hurts and damages as they had done should be dearly revenged; wherefore he had sent letters to his friends in the Empire, to such as were farthest off, and also to the gentle king of Bohemia and to the lord Charles his son, who from thenceforth was called king of Almaine; he was made king by the aid of his father and the French king, and had taken on him the arms of the Empire: the French king desired them to come to him with all their powers, to the intent to fight with the king of England, who brent and wasted his country. These princes and lords made them ready with great number of men of arms, of Almains, Bohemians and Luxemburgers, and so came to the French king. Also king Philip sent to the duke of Lorraine, who came to serve him with three hundred spears: also there came the earl [of] Salm in Saumois, the earl of Sarrebruck, the earl of Flanders, the earl William of Namur, every man with a fair company.
Ye have heard herebefore of the order of the Englishmen, how they went in three battles, the marshals on the right hand and on the left, the king and the prince of Wales his son in the midst. They rode but small journeys and every day took their lodgings between noon and three of the clock, and found the country so fruitful, that they needed not to make no provision for their host, but all only for wine; and yet they found reasonably sufficient thereof.1 It was no marvel though they of the country were afraid, for before that time they had never seen men of war, nor they wist not what war or battle meant. They fled away as far as they might hear speaking of the Englishmen,2 and left their houses well stuffed, and granges full of corn, they wist not how to save and keep it. The king of England and the prince had in their battle a three thousand men of arms and six thousand archers and a ten thousand men afoot, beside them that rode with the marshals.
Thus as ye have heard, the king rode forth, wasting and brenning the country without breaking of his order. He left the city of Coutances3 and went to a great town called Saint-Lo, a rich town of drapery and many rich burgesses. In that town there were dwelling an eight or nine score burgesses, crafty men. When the king came there, he took his lodging without, for he would never lodge in the town for fear of fire: but he sent his men before and anon the town was taken and clean robbed. It was hard to think the great riches that there was won, in clothes specially; cloth would there have been sold good cheap, if there had been any buyers.
Then the king went toward Caen, the which was a greater town and full of drapery and other merchandise, and rich burgesses, noble ladies and damosels, and fair churches, and specially two great and rich abbeys, one of the Trinity, another of Saint Stephen; and on the one side of the town one of the fairest castles of all Normandy, and captain therein was Robert of Wargny, with three hundred Genoways, and in the town was the earl of Eu and of Guines, constable of France, and the earl of Tancarville, with a good number of men of war. The king of England rode that day in good order and lodged all his battles together that night, a two leagues from Caen, in a town with a little haven called Austrehem, and thither came also all his navy of ships with the earl of Huntingdon, who was governour of them.
The constable and other lords of France that night watched well the town of Caen, and in the morning armed them with all them of the town: then the constable ordained that none should issue out, but keep their defences on the walls, gate, bridge and river, and left the suburbs void, because they were not closed; for they thought they should have enough to do to defend the town, because it was not closed but with the river. They of the town said how they would issue out, for they were strong enough to fight with the king of England. When the constable saw their good wills, he said: In the name of God be it, ye shall not fight without me. Then they issued out in good order and made good face to fight and to defend them and to put their lives in adventure.
Note 1. Or rather, thus they found reasonably sufficient provisions. [back]
Note 2. That is, they fled as soon as they heard their coming spoken of. [back]
Note 3. That is, he did not turn aside to go to it. Froissart says, He did not turn aside to the city of Coutances, but went on toward the great town of Saint-Lo in Cotentin, which at that time was very rich and of great merchandise and three times as great as the city of Coutances. Michael of Northburgh says that Barfleur was about equal in importance to Sandwich and Carentan to Leicester, Saint-Lo greater than Lincoln, and Caen greater than any city in England except London.] [back]